This document is divided into three sections:
- We will delve into the most significant learning moments of 02023.
- We will look at some of my proudest accomplishments.
- We will look at the future, and I will share with you where my attention will lie in 02024.
This is the summary of the review:
It’s been a tough year. Full of change, learning and evolution. Evolving requires going through suffering. And I had lots of that in 02023. But I upgraded myself in new ways and I set myself for a great start in the new year.
I faced burnout linked to running ads and sales calls, but learned to focus on impact over metrics, using awareness and detachment to manage stress. Joining Blake La Grange’s mastermind group significantly aided my personal and business growth. I refined my marketing funnel and shifted to a single, group- focused coaching product. My business grew by 23%. My plans include enhancing my leadership style, fitness routine, and social connections.
What I am not carrying over
I won’t be updating you on finances and carbon footprint. These topics are essential, but I want this space to focus on ideas. I will continue to be diligent about these critical aspects, but they won’t have a space in the review. I will report less numbers and more ideas.
How to read this review
Section One: Biggest learnings
I am fighting burnout.
I spent the whole of 2023 cycling in and out of burnout. I had weeks of clarity, energy and creativity. Weeks of worry, anxiety, and stress. Most of this is connected to two activities:
- running ads;
- holding sales calls.
The problem with ads and sales is fear.
- Somehow, spending money on ads is always a source of anxiety. Though I know it’s a good investment, the limbic system gets overly excited and tricks you.
- Sales is leading prospects in deciding to invest in themselves. When clients say yes to coaching with me, they say yes to themselves. When they say no, they say no to themselves, not just to me. Yet the brain thinks that every “no” is personal, making me less valid.
The antidote to burnout is awareness and detachment. The awareness to interrupt the negative spiral of worry and fear. And the detachment to let go of the expectation of success.
The first may be evident. The second, not so much.
I am an expert, and my job is to help professionals along their leadership journey. When I measure myself, I should never use a marketing metric (for instance, how many new leads can I transform into customers), but rather interrogate my customers and ask them if I am positively impacting their lives.
I must let go of measuring myself against any marketing or business metric. And focus on expertise, relationships, and coaching.
This is deeply linked to thoughts of scarcity. Eg. “I am spending too much on ads.” Versus thoughts of abundance. Eg. “I turned around Nadia’s outlook on leadership and communication. I wonder what she will achieve with her newfound confidence.”
I surrounded myself with geniuses.
The best decision I made in 02023 was to join an unusual mastermind. In February, I realized that I had outgrown Workshopper Master, and although I enjoyed the insights on workshops, I needed a business-focused group.
That’s when I saw trouble. The average business coach focusing on online business is hypey, heavily influenced by marketing fads, and calls Russel Brunson and Alex Hormozi as their references. These coaches focus on copy-pasting ready-made frameworks and generate paint-by-number solutions for entrepreneurs who lack creativity.
Blake La Grange is different. The best bio I can provide is: musician, theologian, humanist with a knack for business.
Thanks to this unusual combination of backgrounds and interests, Blake managed to bring together a diverse group of experts on the way to create a business that they enjoy and that – as a byproduct of enjoyment – also generates money—the opposite of the ready-made microwave dinner business solutions proposed by other coaches.
I immersed myself in this environment in the group coaching calls (watch out for group coaching calls as they are a recurring theme in this review) and the in- person meeting in NY in October ’23.
There is great value in working with Blake because he’s thought things at a depth that most people prefer to avoid. But also because of the quality of the people he attracted to the community.
Before joining Blake, I had two business owners in my private mastermind: Andy and Tom. Now, I have many more experts that I can relate to. That can help me, and who I can help.
Working with this community has been instrumental in achieving outstanding business results and enjoying the path to get there. Although this has been the year of burnout, it’s also the year I asked for help and found the right community to work with. I wouldn’t be surprised if, in 10 years, I would still be working with Blake and this community.
I learned how to deal with my funnel.
In November of 02022, I started building a funnel. Before then, I ran ads to a simple landing page. No automation or filters.
In 2023, I have reworked the funnel multiple times. At the time of writing this, I am revising the funnel once again based on what I learned so far.
During this time, the funnel has brought me equal joy and grief. But as I go forward, I see how wise my hard decision has been.
There are several arts and sciences you need to master to create a great funnel:
Articulation: the ability to convey information in simple terms;
Video making: the ability to be authentic and enticing on camera; Storytelling: the ability to drive people to action through pacing information; Web design: the ability to create great, fast landing pages;
Ad creative: the ability to create enticing visual and copywritten ads;
Ad Management: the ability to run, monitor, and optimize advertising campaigns;
Tracking: the ability to make decisions based on data (and not on emotion); Authenticity: the ability (most important of all) to be yourself throughout the process.
I’ve got all those talents. And in spades. But still, creating a profitable funnel takes a lot of work.
This year, though, I’ve had 6300 people go through a mostly “automatic” experience to get to know me and my value. I didn’t have to do “anything” since the machine was in place. Leads get experiences on my landing pages, watch videos, read emails, and get reminders. All without a direct, day-to-day action on my part.
Automating a marketing machine is fundamental.
A funnel is a living thing. Everything about it needs attention as it can break at any moment. This can lead to fear, anxiety, and worry.
I must be a good steward of the marketing machine. Release any personal attachment to the functioning of the mechanism. Focus on bringing my value to the messaging and have patience.
I concentrate my expertise into just one fantastic product
Last year, I wanted to introduce a new product in my lineup. And I did.
I wanted to gain money with this split of solutions:
38% from coaching
31% from workshops
31% from group coaching
The result for 02023 was
41% from coaching
20% from workshops
34% from group coaching
5% from consulting
The consulting gig was unexpected, pleasurable, and quick. So it was hard to say no. And as you can see my results are within my forecast.
So, all good? Well, massive change ahead.
I will not be holding paid workshops in 02024. Zero. None. I will – occasionally – run some public events in collaboration with my partners.
I will not offer 1:1 coaching packages to my customers. I will honor the existing contracts but won’t accept new 1:1 business.
The customer journey for my new clients will exclusively entail one solution. Each client will have a fully personalized journey, and I will have them on my mind individually. They will each reach the results that they set for themselves. But their needs and desires will be fulfilled in the same environment—a group of clever, ambitious, and empathetic individuals. A group similar to the business coaching community I described in the last chapter.
In Q4, I experimented with offering only one journey, with one duration, with one price, and sold through one channel to one type of customer.
I’ve done so at the strong invitation of my business coach, Blake La Grange, and this focus will do wonders for me and my customers.
There is a twist: my business customers who usually ask for a workshop will get an invitation to join my group. If working in a community is the best solution for individuals, why wouldn’t it be the best solution for businesses, too?
I don’t want to turn down new business, but I’m focused on ensuring the best value for everyone. They’ll get the most from their investment if they join me where I’m putting my effort: in my group.
I pledge to keep evolving this individual coaching journey fulfilled with a group for 02024.
A sales call is not a sales call.
In my line of business calling with a prospective customer is the only way to start a business relationship.
The trouble is, I’m a coach. I am tempted to transform each conversation into a coaching call.
Yet this initial call can’t be a coaching call. And it’s neither a “getting to know each other call.” It’s not friendly, it’s not a service… what is it?
The purpose of this initial call is for me, the coach, to evaluate the prospective client. Even if the client is “shopping for a coach,” the tables must turn. The “sales call” is not a sales call. It’s an interview. In this interview, the coach has a job opening for a coachee. And the coachee can pay for the privilege of occupying this spot.
Challenge me on this. It will make for a fun comments thread.
I only have delighted customers
80% of my customers are thrilled and enthusiastic to work with me. And 20% buy my coaching and never show up for calls. So they are happy with their choice to coach with me, but life got in the way of them doing the work.
I have only delighted customers because I know exactly what each one needs, at what pace, and how they need to hear what they need to hear. I have delighted customers because they undergo a rigid selection, and I only have one journey optimized for their success.
In a reality where I offer workshops, courses, 1:1, and groups simultaneously, I am bound to have unhappy customers. When I offer just one product, I only have one type of customer. The happy type that wants never to quit working with me.
Frameworks are boring
Symptoms. Often, they are all we see.
My head hurts. I’m tired. My presentation sucks.
Symptoms. In the past, I’ve cured them directly without asking more interesting questions.
Bad presentation? Awesome template.
For every symptom, there are many simple answers, some exciting principles, intentions, and often an essence.
Let me explain.
Let’s take a problem: my slides are cluttered.
I have the cure – no worries – have one single concept per slide. Follow this framework, and you will see this problem disappear. Remember: one concept per slide. Simple enough, no?
Well. There is a principle behind that:
Imagine: a slide full of information appears. At the same time, we hear a person talking about point 1 of 10 of this slide. At the same time, we read points 2 to 10 of the slide. We have limited attention, and we get easily distracted. That’s cognitive dissonance.
Principles are great. But behind a great principle, usually, there is an intention.
A clear, uncluttered slide aims to provide clarity to our audience. Maybe we’re talking about a sensitive subject. Our words can be misinterpreted; therefore, we must be clear. The audience must feel reassured by a single concept repeated orally by the presenter and the slide visually.
You see how a framework is still directionally correct. But it’s an easy fix for a broader issue.
What’s the broader issue? Is it the need for clarity?
The need for clarity stems from an essence. The essence could be the need to connect with our audience deeply.
I want to demonstrate that starting from the essence makes our path much more meaningful.
If my essential need is connecting with the audience at a deep level, I don’t need slides. Yet if we start with the wrong question, we get a framework that is directionally true but solves the symptom instead of enabling our essence.
I believe in coaching because it allows me to ditch the frameworks and ask the right questions so that your symptom reveals an intention and an essence and that we can derive the principle (and the framework) from something deep and true.
Section Two: Biggest results
An excellent year for the business
This year I retire the graph with my revenue results. But I want to show it to you one last time. I closed the year with a +23% over last year vs. my prediction of +100%.
My ad spend moved from Google Ads to Meta ads, and the ROI was 110%. For each euro spent on ads, I made €2.10. That’s good for a freelancer, but the aim for next year is to increase the ROI from 100% to 300-500%.
I had around 197 initial customer calls and 34 customers this year. This means an overall close rate of 17%. This figure is within the benchmark, but there is much room for improvement. And if I doubled my closing rate, I would have 70 customers and a +142% increase over last year. Closing rates matter.
I also doubled my average invoice amount. The revenue per client is another important metric that I will continue reporting on.
In the coming years, I will report on ROI, close rate, and, more importantly, profit margin. Last year, I set out to reach a profit margin of 30% before tax. I am happy to report that my back-of-the-napkin profit margin calculation for 02023 is 33%.
Considering that all of this happened in a year of fine-tuning, changing, adapting, and launching new ways of serving my customers, that’s a miraculous year. But hard work is what’s behind the miracle.
I devoted the whole of 02023 to evolving myself as a coach and a business owner, and the results are just showing that execution, dedication, and attention can pay off.
These numbers tell me that I am on the right path. The path from running a solo freelance activity to building a business that multiplies my impact.
Even more importantly, in the next few years, I will be able to tell you if business has made me happy.
This year, my business made me more happy than unhappy. The happiness margin is 60%. The 40% of unhappiness is detailed in the first chapter of this review. Next year, my goal is 80%.
I launched my “one” product on my birthday on Feb 16th, 2023.
This year, I took a bold leap of courage and launched my new way of helping my customers reach their goals.
I recorded my best course material ever. I held my best coaching sessions ever. I had the best results ever.
I am putting all my eggs in this one basket. My future is deeply linked with the evolution of how my clients find their solutions by collaborating with me in this online group environment.
Reworking my funnel
For how hard it has been, it gives me great pride to say that I went from this to this during this year.
LANDING PAGE INITIALLY
LANDING PAGE NOW
I also went from running salesy webinars to running a free monthly Q&A session with no pitch.
I worked tirelessly on the centerpiece of the funnel: the Video Sales Letter or VSL.
Through this video, new clients have met and started working with me. I have shot seven different versions of this video and… I am working on a new version as I am writing this.
Most of the time, I have had a lot of anxiety when making changes, optimizing, and experimenting with this funnel. The intention for 02024 is to continue working on and optimizing the funnel without adding fear and worry to the process.
I can run a campaign with a 110% ROI over 12 months. I will optimize it and continue to make it better.
I’m working from my new office
After so much planning, here is my office:
The recording setup has yet to be definitive, as is the furnishing. But this is the place for me to relax. Enjoy my work. Be in flow. Focus on what matters. Have my best ideas.
It combines all my passions: productivity, technology, cars, fitness, nature and beauty in one place. I couldn’t be happier about how this space constantly gives me joy.
It’s such a privilege to see it come to fruition.
I am back to my best morning routine.
For most of the year, I had a silly morning routine. I checked my phone first thing, chasing how many leads had been produced by the funnel.
In the last quarter, I’ve upgraded my mornings to 1 hour without checking the phone or the internet.
This means preparing tea. Journaling and reading. During this time, I often also have creative ideas, draft articles, and take notes on paper.
I do this in my new reading room. It is a cozy space with a comfy sofa, warm lighting, and some cute vertical bookshelves.
I’ve read more this year than in the years prior. I’ve had more curiosity towards new ideas and found it natural to extend my boundaries through reading.
A book I suggest everyone pick up this year is
Finite and Infinite Games.
It blew my mind. It will open yours.
Rarely I’ve found such a gem of book so overlooked by the mainstream.
I wrote more than ever this year. My output included:
- 7 articles;
- 60 newsletters;
- posting daily for 3 months on linkedin;
- 6 youtube videos;
- many ads both text and video.
I am as much a coach as a content creator. All the time I spend creating content is time well spent. I can’t wait to continue creating more excellent content in the future.
This couldn’t be a yearly review with a fleet update. This year, I drove 18.951 Km.
This is the breakdown:
2010 Porsche 911 Carrera S 2.121 Km
2019 Mazda MX-5 10.090 Km
2007 Ford C-Max 2.077 Km
1972 Alfa Romeo Giulia Super 4.663 Km
The Ford and the Alfa got their regular scheduled maintenance this year. The Porsche got a big service and an upgrade with original parts. The car didn’t have a sport mode; it was added this year. The sport mode has a more aggressive mapping of the throttle and a more relaxed stability management, making the car even more playful and enjoyable to drive.
The Mazda got its yearly maintenance, a respray at the back because of a dent due to being rear-ended at a very low speed last winter. The front was also resprayed to eliminate some stone chips after more than 50.000 Km.
All cars are in rude health. The Alfa will go to the paint shop for some rust repair and small cosmetic retouches.
My focus for next year is to drive the Porsche more and make time for more rallies and road trips.
Socializing around cars in Berlin
I’ve added Berlin’s car community to my social sphere. I’ve connected with some fantastic individuals and contributed to starting a new car event called “Cars & ice” with Jean-Baptiste and Allen. We aim to extend the car event season with events happening in winter.
Taking leadership here and creating meaningful connections has proven essential to enjoying the car scene more.
Taking ownership of what you want is a pretty important principle overall. I will continue to apply this formula to the car scene and beyond.
I launched a new website this year. Nobody noticed because it was identical to the previous one. I just changed the underlying technology. I abandoned the bulky, inefficient website builder DIVI for the more compatible, fast, streamlined Gutenberg.
Gutenberg makes my life easier as it gives me better speed and better SEO and makes updating the website quicker.
With the new website comes a slightly adjusted positioning. But that’s a great way to start the next section.
P.S. I could not figure out how the website did in the past 12 months. Can we fire whoever is in charge of UX/UI at Google Analytics? They will have more success once they leave the design field.
Section Three: Biggest Attention
A new year, a new positioning
I’ve refined my positioning with every year (and every review). I have previously led with the solution (i’ts storytelling, baby). This year, I want to do something different.
Here’s the new positioning:
Hey, my name is Matteo Cassese, I help executives become assertive,
emotionally intelligent, and empathetic leaders.
I want you to enjoy connecting with others like you never did before. Even with
people you don’t like (and who might not like you).
I do it with emotional intelligence, business storytelling, and common sense.
Executives who work with me get promoted, motivate their team, move crowds to action, and manage difficult transitions.
I’ll give you a story that will truly connect with others. Help you provide value, support your peers, reach your goals, and grow into the leader you wish to be.
And most importantly, enjoy the whole process.
What do you think?
My relationship with leverage
In some aspects of my life leverage is clear. Speaking 3 languages fluently gives me leverage. I can mix with the German locals, be eloquent while working with my clients in English, and connect to many whom I love in Italian.
Working for great clients like Warner, Netflix, Vinted, and Amazon gives me a leg up in the market. It’s leverage.
Upgrading my abilities gives me leverage.
In 02024, I wish to devote much thought to how I can increase my leverage. The way I will do it is:
Staying with the fear: Whenever we touch something deep, we connect with some fear. It may be the fear of speaking up. Of success. Of connection. Whatever this fear, I wish to see it, stay with it, ask her to teach me the way.
Using abundance as the antidote to fear: each time I feel fear, I am focusing on the scarce, waning, disappearing resources. I want to focus on abundant, renewable, and fulfilling resources in the upcoming year. I want to believe in the abundant nature of human beings and markets.
Coaching forward: some mentors help their clients do what they have already done. Their value lies in their past experience. For instance, when I brought my digital marketing expertise to entertainment companies, my value was exhausted when everyone was digitalized. My value was in the past. I have started coaching my clients on what I am doing now and what I plan to do in the future. My value is in the moment. The value is not in techniques or frameworks but in essence and intention.
Playing less finite games and more infinite games: when you optimize your business for a number, you’re playing a finite game. You’re playing an infinite game when you’re striving to enjoy the journey.
Speaking on stage: the expert’s expertise emerges when asked. There are two great ways to ask me to perform at my best: ask me a question during a coaching session (I hold a free one every month) or invite me to speak on stage. In the second part of 02024, I will focus more on speaking on stage.
My ability to think and execute
All I have done has been a thought at some point or another. These thoughts matter.
I have such a remarkable ability to execute that… it’s dangerous. I need to be implementing the right ideas. To have the right vision for the future. I treasure my ability to execute on many levels by nurturing only the best ideas.
To do so, I want to develop my awareness of the importance of downtime.
Disconnected time. Boredom. Physical movement. Gardening. Driving. Flow activities that are not connected to computers. This will allow me to have the best ideas in the new year.
In 02024, I will establish my leadership style even more. This is why I invite my customers to work on their leadership.
I will explore the concept. And I will be a great steward, coach, and servant to all of my communities.
Fitness and health make everything possible. In 02024, I want to increase my attention to fitness, doubling the daily time I devote to movement. Right now, I devote 1 hour to it every day. An increase to 2 hours is the goal for the new year.
Some aspects have taken the backseat with all that I accomplished in 02024. Dating is the one goal where I missed the mark in ’23.
The only way to start again is with a lighter, more playful spirit. And to budget the energy to try, fail, and enjoy the process.
Hosting friends at home
I want to host more of you in my country house on the outskirts of Berlin. My friends visiting me this year have brought a wonderful energy to my weeks, and I wish to have more of that energy in the new year.
Finally, a new layer: Essence
Essence is another word I connect with my work with Kollege and Blake La Grange.
There is an essence to every so-called problem; there is an essence to everything we are.
If I can keep connected with my essence, I can be of better value to myself and the world. This essence is not fixed and can’t be captured simply with a positioning.
I am curious. I like to think for myself. I am fascinated by brainy things. I am unconventional. I am determined. I am focused. I am stubborn. I’m opinionated. I am funny. I am caring. I am empathetic. And I am much more than that. But I lose authenticity and awareness if I forget to bring my essence to what I do.
In the past, I’ve called this radical openness. But this complex articulation needs an upgrade. I write this review not because I am open but because I am the way I am. This review is my essence.
Thanks for connecting with my essence. Have a fantastic 02024.